Archives For Beatdom Content

Stuff from the pages of Beatdom.

4 Important Travel Destinations for the Beat Generation

The Beats were, in many ways, an international literary movement. Although in defining the Beat Generation, we tend to look at a core of three writers, expanding out to include others like Gregory Corso and “second generation Beats” like Diane di Prima, and they are all American. Sure, there were British artists inspired by the Beats, and India’s Hungry Generation, and all across the world youths writing poetry like Ginsberg… but in the end, the Beat Generation was an American movement. Only it wasn’t purely American: it was a bunch of Americans inspired by the outside world.  Continue Reading…

Allen Ginsberg and the FBI (and Secret Service)

In 1965 Allen Ginsberg flew to Cuba as part of a major poetry event hosted by the Casa de las Americas. He was famously booted out of the country after offending his hosts. In fact, it was never entirely clear why Ginsberg was deported. He liked to say it was for protesting the illegal detention of homosexuals, but it’s more likely that it was a political move by the government to harm the image of Casa de las Americas. In any case, Allen’s outspoken nature meant he was unlikely to get along well under a totalitarian regime like Castro’s.  Continue Reading…

Beat Generation and How They Defined the Pop Culture in the Years to Come

The Beat Generation was born out of protest against conformism and amid desperate searches for meaning and purpose. There are, perhaps, few other literary and culture movements that had as much ambiguity surrounding them. Jail time, nomad lifestyle, drugs, obscenity charges, and psychiatric institutions – all of those were indispensable parts of the cult. And yet, the Beat Generation had a significant impact on a whole number of aspects of life in the times when it was born, as well as in the years to come. It transformed the view of art, music, and literature and sent them into directions they wouldn’t have gone on their own. Their legacy is still alive and plays a significant role in the art development of today. Continue Reading…

Cool Cats: Beat Poets and their Feline Friends

For some reason, if you look back through literary history, it seems most great authors had a fondness for cats. Purrrhaps* that’s because being a writer often requires a rather cat-like existence… but more likely it’s just a case of confirmation bias. The internet loves cats, therefore there will be enough photos of authors and cats circulating online to convince us that cats are somehow muses to the greats of literature. But whichever of those options is true, certainly enough of our great writers have had close relationships with felines to make it seem as though cat-ownership is somehow a pre-requisite for literary brilliance. Continue Reading…

Who Owns the Dropper Owns the Fix: Out to Lunch with William Burroughs

It was summer 91, I think, when sharing a joint on a brick fire escape after a night of acid-tapped cartoon lunacy, my friend Steve exhaled smoke into the Manchester morning and casually asked if I’d heard of a writer called William Burroughs. I hadn’t, but that moment was my first gleaming of what was to become a deep, unremitting love for the man J.G. Ballard called ‘True genius and first mythographer of the mid-twentieth century’. Steve passed the joint and disappeared indoors – momentarily leaving me staring, rabbit-eyed, into the headlights of reality – before returning with a tatty, yellowing paperback. ‘Read this,’ he said, thrusting the well-thumbed pages at me. ‘You’ll love it.’ Continue Reading…

What the Beats can teach us about writing

The Beat Generation was not just important as a countercultural movement. We don’t just remember Jack Kerouac for sending kids on the road and accidentally birthing the hippies, or Allen Ginsberg for his peace & love messages. We remember them as literary innovators, and as such they have a lot to teach us about writing. Literature changed with the Beat Generation and it has never been the same since. Yet as time goes by, it is easy to forget what exactly they gave us. Let’s take the chance to look over some of the writing lessons handed down by the Beat writers. Continue Reading…

The Best Beat Generation Letter Collections

The writers of the Beat Generation were not just great at composing poems or producing genre-smashing novels. They were also voluminous letter-writers, corresponding over vast distances by mail. They shared ideas, gave details of their lives and thoughts, and even experimented with writing styles through the act of writing these letters. Some, like the Joan Anderson Letter, were of incalculable significance. Thankfully, they were often careful enough to save their letters, knowing that some day in the future these might be of importance. Eventually, as telephone calls became cheaper, the letters dried up. However, during the heyday of the Beat Generation, they correspondence was frequent and often stretched into thousands of magnificent words.  Continue Reading…

The Beat Generation and Mental Hospitals

The 1940s and 50s were difficult years to be non-conformist, and that was doubly true if you were a woman. The writers of the Beat Generation, as well as their friends and families, who lived bohemian lifestyles in a buttoned-up era, found that their very existence could be dangerous in those days. Whether they were driven to genuine mental illness by the shackles of a repressive society or deemed unfit for society because of their individualist life choices, many of those who fell under the Beat label ended up in the “nuthouse.” For some of them it was just a temporary stay that gave them inspiration for their art, but for others it was a deeply traumatic experience that irrevocably damaged their life. Continue Reading…

The Beats in Greece

As the birthplace of Western democracy, literature, and philosophy, it is hardly surprising that Greece was of such interest to the Beats. Nearly three thousand years after Homer wrote The Iliad and The Odyssey, Ancient Greek civilization provided an irresistible allure for some of the poets and writers of the Beat Generation. Continue Reading…

Feeling the Power: The Everlasting Impact of Hubert Selby Jr.’s Last Exit of Brooklyn

 

“…You men writers always put your balls in the way of the story…get your ego out of the way and just tell the story…!”

Hubert Selby Jr. to Henry Rollins, Los Angeles, 1986

 

When Hubert Selby Jr.’s Last Exit to Brooklyn was published in 1964, it left a serious wake in the social and literary world of the time that is still felt today. Controversial and even banned upon publication for its graphic language and depictions, the book showcased subject matter and a writing style that has not been rivaled since. Continue Reading…